The following blog will discuss the research I conducted regarding student cheating behaviors at Humber College. I had selected this topic for a variety of reasons, but I was most interested in revealing the impact of COVID-19 and the increase in online learning on the student body at Humber. I was also hoping to uncover how students having limited control over their own work impacted engagement in cheating. For instance, I had theorized that assessment types like online quizzes contribute to cheating behaviors by preventing students from engaging in meaningful and creative work.

Existing Data
As predicted, existing data containing themes of online learning did not favor online teaching styles for various reasons. Lee and Choi (2013), state that online learning resulted in higher numbers of post-secondary student dropout rates. This depicts that students are struggling with online teaching platforms, which potentially results in students engaging in cheating behaviors in order to succeed. Other research by Chet, Sok and Sou (2022) argues that online learning decreases student learning experience, “with around 60% of students stating that online learning hindered their studies”. This further proves that online learning results in lower quality education, which could result in students turning to cheating as a way to maintain grades.

In terms of my personal research, one of the most compelling pieces of data I collected is something that I discovered during one of my student interviews: it was considered more socially acceptable for students to cheat on certain assessment types, as opposed to others. Upon discussing this finding with my thesis class, I created a pyramid diagram, or hierarchy, depicting what assessment type students are most likely to cheat on. I have coined this diagram ‘The Hierarchy of Academic Misconduct’. The most likely to cheat was at the bottom of the hierarchy and the least was at the top. On either side of each section of the diagram, arms can be seen. One of these arms depicts the year that is most/least likely to cheat on the corresponding assessment, with the other representing the level of student control over their own work.

Essentially the hierarchy argues that as the year of the student and level of control over student work increases, the risk of students cheating decreases. As stated above, the more control students have over their work, the less likely they will be to engage in cheating behaviors. When the student is in control, this results in students taking greater care and interest in their work. When students participate in an online quiz, they have no interest or care in the work. This is because these online quizzes do not allow for students to engage in creative and meaningful work. With assessments such as a fourth year thesis, the student will not want to risk tarnishing the work that they not only focused their interest in, but also used their creative energy for. With that being said and regardless of the assessment type, it is highly important that Humber faculty follows through with punishments on any student who is caught engaging in cheating. Otherwise, what are students being taught? That it is acceptable to cheat on certain assessment types and not on others.

Possible Solutions
With the creation of the hierarchy and the findings from it, several recommendations to Humber College can be made. These recommendations include a change in policy, to ensure both consistency amongst faculty and the removal of all online quizzes for assessment. A second recommendation would be the implementation of a specialized course. This course would educate first year Humber students on the harms of academic dishonesty and the importance of academic integrity. By incorporating this type of course, students will gain a greater understanding on these subjects while understanding that Humber takes academic misconduct seriously. Thirdly, professors should serve as moderators on online group chats. This will allow for professors to monitor the group chat, while making it easier for students to report cheating behaviors. Lastly, if Humber College wishes to combat cheating, it would be important for them to continue research on this subject, while using the hierarchy as a reference. It is clear that based on the existing data, online learning is in fact a contributor to cheating behaviors. Therefore, if Humber College wishes to minimize cheating, my recommendations should be considered.

Lee, Y., & Choi, J. (2013). A structural equation model of predictors of online learning retention. The Internet and Higher Education, 16, 36-42.

Chet, C., Sok, S., & Sou, V. (2022). The Antecedents and Consequences of Study Commitment to Online Learning at Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in Cambodia. Sustainability (Basel, Switzerland), 14(6), 3184-.



Note: This blog post was authored by a student. ICAI takes pride in highlighting student voices as students are a key stakeholder in higher education and the promotion of academic integrity. ICAI does not endorse or advocate for any position or statement made.

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